Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Turkey Shoot - The Day They Took Over

Happy Thanksgiving folks!  For turkey day I thought I'd put the blog crosshairs on an obscure little arcade game called Turkey Shoot. A pretty predictable seasonal choice I suppose but the game is pretty rare - reportedly 450 were made and apparently very few of those still exist - so I'm guessing most folks out there haven't played it.

Turkey Shoot was released by former arcade and pinball giant (and one of my favorite developers) Williams back in 1984. Like most game developers of the mid-80's, Williams' dystopian view of the future involved a mysterious plague transforming humanity into turkeys with a penchant for crime. The game provides the backstory:

The year is 1989, one year after the great gobble blight which plagued the world. One third of earth's populace was transformed into turkeys by the ailment. The side effect of turkey transformation is a tendency toward violence and comradery between these turkeys to organize for rabble-rousing in the urban areas. In February of '89, a group of specially trained agents (the Turkey Terminators) was formed for the sole task of destroying the turkey menace. As a Terminator you must be mentally and physically prepared for a series of missions complimentary to your skills.  Good luck and strength to you!

The game has a gun mounted to the cabinet like on an Operation Wolf or Terminator 2 Judgement Day but the gun operates as an optical/light gun to move your reticle around the screen. The criminal turkeys scurry about in all directions committing various crimes and your job of course is to shoot them to turn them into cooked turkey dinners. In addition to your gunfire once per mission/level you can hurl a grenade at the turkeys to take out several in one blast.  Also, once per mission, you can hit your GOBBLE button which clucks out a turkey call that freezes the turkeys in place for a couple of seconds, allowing you to try and pick them off before they start running again.

Each mission is a little different - in the first one thug turkeys are robbing the theater box office and trying to make off with the bags of loot. In the second mission you guard against multiple thefts by thug turkeys and boss turkeys. In the third mission pilot turkeys fly suicide missions into a helicopter and you have to shoot them before they hit it - and so on. Every 8th mission there is a bonus round where you have 15 seconds of rapid-fire shooting and unlimited grenades to blow away as many turkeys as possible without harming an innocent bystander.

Later on cops start making the scene to help but just get in the way because you have to avoid shooting them, cyborg mechano-turkeys show up that can only be taken out with a headshot, turkeys disguise themselves as businessmen and start grabbing hostages so that you have to shoot the turkeys without hitting the hostages and so forth.  When a turkey escapes with the loot, dive bombs the helicopter, or an innocent bystander is injured you have "fowled up" and you are only allowed 3 fowl ups at which point the game is over.  It gets very difficult very fast playing it on the real cab so the games don't last long at all - which is of course by design. The Turkey Shoot manual even states that "...thorough field and factory research has shown that two-minute games both satisfy players and also keep the quarters flowing." So don't plan on playing for much longer than a couple of minutes.

And my favorite part - at the end of each level a fan blows a bunch of real feathers all around inside the glass in front of the monitor! Those kinds of offbeat physical features always make a cab stand out in my mind. So. even though the gameplay is fairly routine, the wacky nature of the game and the unique feather feature of the cab bump it up to pretty cool in my book. I wish I had taken a video of the feathers flying to post when I used to play it at Joystix because they eventually sold it off and now I suspect I might not ever see another one.

If you can make your way through 100 missions you have defeated all the turkeys and the game is over, but accomplishing that on the real arcade cab seems impossible to me. Unfortunately, given the nature of the gun and the feathers feature, Turkey Shoot is one of those games that is nowhere near as fun to play on MAME as it is to play on the real thing, but someone did upload a MAME video of the game onto YouTube so check it out below. They made it look much easier than it really is because they cheated by enabling rapid-fire on all levels, but they did complete all 100 missions of the game which is still impressive. Now I'm off to eat some ham and dressing (don't really care much for turkey). Later gents!

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Friday, November 18, 2011

Another Year Another HAAG Arcade Expo

Well, almost a month since my last post. Too much work lately interfering with my playtime and of course with my chit chat time here on the Gameroom too. I have finished several games in the past month both modern and retro and am just getting way too far behind in my little online gaming journal here so I am taking a break from work to drop a few words and pics about my visit this last weekend to the Houston Area Arcade Group's Arcade Expo.

This was the 10th installment of the annual event here in Houston, Texas and as always a good time was had by all. Over 200 arcade, pinball and console games all on free play, after the initial purchase of the tickets of course. $20 per day or $30 for both days. Entering the hotel and looking around I saw the usual oddball mix of folks with the occasional stormtrooper from the 501st Legion, X-wing pilot from the Rebel Legion, and ghostbuster from the Houston Area Ghostbusters thrown in for flavor. My favorite? The stormtroopers of course!

The first room room is where they have all the vendors, the REALLY old arcade games (e.g. bat and ball games, flipperless pinballs and shooting galleries), an XBox 360 hooked up to a Kinect and projected onto a giant screen, the tournament games, and a large collection of various old consoles and computers set up with individual monitors and games just waiting for you to sit down and play. I played a little Apple IIe, VIC-20, Odyssey 2, Intellivision - pretty good stuff.

As in previous events Atari Age had a nice presence at the show with several homebrew carts available to play - and maybe buy which is what I intended to do but completely forgot to go back and look into it.  Last year's homebrew cart that caught my eye was Halo 2600 - the Atari's version of the modern Xbox classic (that you can try online here).  This year's prize was Juno First.

Juno First is a pretty obscure arcade game released by Konami in 1983 but if you've never tried it you should pull it up on MAME because it's pretty cool - think Defender mixed with Beamrider. And this Atari 2600 port by Chris Walton of Glasgow, UK is an excellent translation. Assuming you don't have a copy of the cartridge you can download the game here and give it a go on Stella. The author himself posted the file for download so I'm assuming he won't mind.

As I walked into the main arcade I recalled the noise. But unlike Joystix which assails you with music to the point where you often can't even hear the game you are playing, the HAAG Expo hits a much happier balance between arcade sounds and 80's music pumping through the sound system. So although it is still very loud, I find the HAAG arcade sound levels to be much more tolerable and historically accurate than Joystix.

All my favorites from the last show were there again like Quantum, Track & Field and Varkon. As always I discovered a few new ones that I quite liked - this time the honor fell to Sega's pinball Apollo 13 and the Terminator 3 pinball. The unique thing about the Apollo 13 pin was the multiball when 13 pinballs flooded down on your flippers at once. It was pretty wild!

Oh, and it's not game-related but I came home with a bag full of goodies too. I won a VHS tape of the Doctor Who episode Warriors of the Deep (points off for starring Peter Davison instead of Tom Baker but still free is free), and I bought a big stack of comics for 25 cents each, a marquee for the old obscure arcade game Shark Attack for $5 and a little spinning/exploding death star toy for $1.

If you are in the Houston area this time next year I highly recommend you check out the Expo. Never hurts to plan ahead you know.  See you there!

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